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College men's hockey: 2018 NCHC Frozen Faceoff preview

No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (21-14-3) vs. No. 2 Denver (20-9-8) What: NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals When: 7:38 p.m. Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul Regular season series: Denver won 4-0 Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 18th season at UMD, is 336-2...

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No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (21-14-3) vs. No. 2 Denver (20-9-8)

What: NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals

When: 7:38 p.m.

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

Regular season series: Denver won 4-0

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Coaches: Scott Sandelin, in his 18th season at UMD, is 336-298-85; Jim Montgomery, in his fifth season at Denver, is 102-46-19.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: KDAL-AM 610/KDAL-FM 103.9

Internet: KDAL610.com (audio); cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network (video)

Twitter: @mattwellens

UMD update: The Bulldogs are the defending NCHC Frozen Faceoff champions having defeated North Dakota in last year's title game at Target Center in Minneapolis. This is the Bulldogs' third straight trip to the NCHC semifinals. They've played in the last two NCHC postseason championship games, losing to St. Cloud State in the 2016 finals. Since that loss to the Huskies, the Bulldogs have won six straight NCHC playoff games. UMD reached the semifinals via a 5-0 and 2-0 sweep of Western Michigan last weekend in a quarterfinal series at Amsoil Arena. Sophomore goaltender Hunter Shepard made 26 saves and 19 saves to run his UMD single-season shutout record to eight. The Cohasset native has five shutouts in the Bulldogs' last eight games. UMD is 7-1 in that span, outscoring the opposition 33-6. Freshman wing Kobe Roth, who missed last Saturday's game due to injury, is available this weekend.

Quote: "We made some mistakes in critical areas at critical times against them and they're a team that's going to pounce on that like any great team. ... Opportunities, you're not going to get many. They are a good defensive team too." - Sandelin on the Pioneers, who have won five straight one-goal games against UMD dating to the 2017 NCAA title game.

Denver update: The Pioneers are appearing in their fifth NCHC Frozen Faceoff in the five-year history of the tournament. Since winning the inaugural NCHC postseason championship in 2014, Denver has lost in the semifinals three straight years. A year ago, Denver won 18 of its last 19 games en route to the NCAA title, with the Frozen Faceoff semifinal against North Dakota being the lone loss. The Pioneers needed three games to get by rival Colorado College last week. The Tigers took Game 1, 2-0, before Denver rattled off 3-2 and 6-1 wins. The Pioneers swept the Bulldogs in four one-goal games during the regular season, despite UMD's Shepard posting a .928 save percentage and 2.04 GAA. Three of the four games saw three or fewer goals scored. Senior goalie Tanner Jaillet - who is a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award along with Shepard - has a .965 save percentage and 1.00 GAA against UMD this season. Since sweeping Duluth in Denver the first weekend in February, the Pioneers are 4-3-2.

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Quote: "Our entire program has tremendous amount of respect for Scott Sandelin, his staff and the culture and the team they have there. For them to be back where they are after losing all the seniors and early signings speaks volumes about the job he's done with this program." - Montgomery on the Bulldogs

 

No. 4 North Dakota (16-12-10) vs. No. 1 St. Cloud State (24-7-6)

What: NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals

When: 4:08 p.m.

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul

Regular season series: St. Cloud State won 2-0-2

Coaches: Brad Berry, in his third season at North Dakota, is 71-34-17; Bob Motzko, in his 13th season at St. Cloud State, is 179-130-38.

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TV: CBS Sports Network

Internet: cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network (video)

North Dakota update: The Fighting Hawks, who swept Nebraska-Omaha in the quarterfinals, are appearing in their fifth Frozen Faceoff in five years and 16th straight conference championship weekend going back to the WCHA tournament, having finally reached the championship game for the first time last season. Prior to that, the Hawks were 0-3 in the NCHC semifinals. At Target Center in Minneapolis, the Hawks went 2-5-2 in four Frozen Faceoffs. North Dakota's history at Xcel is much kinder. Here the Hawks won three straight WCHA postseason titles from 2010-12. The Hawks likely need two wins in St. Paul to reach the NCAA tournament while two losses will almost certainly end their run of consecutive NCAA tournament berths at 15. UND went 1-5-4 during the regular season against the Huskies, Pioneers and Bulldogs.

Quote: "Nothing has come easy but I'm really proud the way out guys have battled adversity. Beginning of the year, you ask us what the strength of our team is and the answer was depth. We have everybody available in our lineup now. Our depth is back and everyone is contributing." - Berry

SCSU update: The Huskies come to St. Paul as the NCHC regular-season champions. It's the program's second NCHC title after winning the inaugural league title in 2013-14. St. Cloud State's only other regular-season conference title came in the WCHA in 2012-13. This is the Huskies' third appearance in the Frozen Faceoff after missing the championship weekend in 2014 as conference champs and last year. In both of their previous two appearances, the Huskies have played for the title, having lost in 2015 and won in 2016. St. Cloud State needed three games last weekend to get by last-place Miami - the team which upset it in the 2014 quarterfinals - winning 4-3 in overtime on Sunday. Since splitting at UMD at the end of January, the Huskies have gone 9-1-3 with the lone loss coming against the RedHawks last Saturday 3-2 in overtime. The Huskies likely need just one win this weekend to lock up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Quote: "There's a hockey feel in St. Paul. Our fans are excited. I think all the fans are and it's going to be a tremendous weekend. We sure survived a scare last week to get here." - Motzko

Related Topics: BULLDOG SPORTS
Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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